Health badwagon

2:14 PM

This is official India has hopped on the "health food" bandwagons. Not that it is necessary a bad thing because Indian cooking while delicious is not always healthy, and often involves too much carb and fat and very little vitamins left from overcooking veggies.

But I'm quite concerned with the new health food options : low fat curd, cheese, butter, sweet and low, without added sugar...and olive oil!

Because let's face it, not all of the above are good, take it from a girl that grew up in this fad in Europe.

Low fat, or 0% fat : This is packaged crap if you ask me, first because non-fat dairy just can't be so, milk is made of fat, period, remove the fat and you have blah insipid stuff that no self respected person would put in their mouth. What dairy company do to your non-fat whatever is compensate the lack of taste by adding sugar or sweetener to it. In the end your product is NOT natural anymore, has only 7-10% less calorie than the real thing and you eat more of it, gaining more weight...I hear you about keeping quantities small, but cup of non-fat curd will keep your stomach full for an hour a full fat one for 2-3 hours making it a better snack. And I tried the "healthy" ones. I always topped it with a cracker or a fruit to feel satisfied, never happened with the traditional full fat type. And people feel less "guilty" about eating those low fat stuff and are less careful about how much they snack on, because somehow the label does the psychological work to make you feel less guilty about food........... NOT GOOD. My advice buy the real stuff, you'll eat less of it and will feel satisifed. Apply this to cheese, butter, milk, curd.

Artificial sweeteners : Mother nature created sugar cane, honey and beetroot sugar syrup, but suddenly some well intentionned health freaks decided all this is bad and a flock of scientists came up with "aspartam" "saccharine" and other sweet and low.
Now saccharine has been known to be bad and trigger cancer, so you wont find those, but doesn't mean the others are good, try dropping some of those miracle sweetener in your coffee and see it foam on the surface...would you drink that? The marketing team is the real genius here if you ask me. And this new miracle sugar that for some brand is "Made from sugar, taste like sugar, but has no calories" is added to more and more stuff : sodas, cookies, cakes, chocolate (sensitive topic for the swiss I am). I've not seen a person go thiner by drinking Diet coke, because instead of drinking one regular one concious that it's junk food they drink 3-4 Diet one feeling better about absorbing junk, and feel like it's ok to do so!

But nothing compares in matter of myths to Olive oil. YES OLIVE OIL. I've never heard more non-sense about this oil as in the past 10 years so let me bust a few myths here.

1) Mediteranean cuisine is not using this oil in everything! It's a seasoning oil used to drizzle on salads, pasta, pizza and grilled meat. It is NOT used in the cooking process, why see below.

2) It is not a cooking oil, as all oil, olive oil turn rancid and unhealthy once heated, so forget about the guilt free feeling using olive oil to deep fry potatoes, it's crap. It's as bad as regular oil, and the heat will make even the aroma of it turn rancid so you'll end up with an awful taste, like all aromatic oils, olive oil should be stored away from light and heat, idealy in the fridge to preserve the taste and healthy elements. And no there is no such thing as deep fried mediteranean stuff in olive oil. This is a myth. And it doesn't matter that it's extra virgin or not, those appelation affect the taste, not the heat resistance.

3) Olive oil doesn't make you slim down, it was so trust me there would be some millionaires out there. It's oil, it has calories and should be used sparingly...period. Do not consume twice the amount of it than you would with any other oil just because its said to be healthy. Meaditeraneans are not slimmer and have less heart disease because of olive oil alone. It's rather because they eat less junk, more fresh fruits and veggies and prefer grilled lean meat and fish. It could be any oil, but turns out it's olive oil that brings the most flavour to a dish.

That being said, I refuse to follow one of those big fad, I don't care who is the dietetician who said it should be so, I grew up in Switzerland, which is strongly influenced by French cuisine. This latter is made with real thick creamy full fat sauces, really butter, white bread, "fatty cheeses" real sugar, red wine, buttered coissant, yet it is still the country in Europe that has the less obesity going on. As well as low cardiovascular disease risks, and people have a long life span. Why americans called it the "French Paradox" is beyhond me, because the truth is that there is no paradox at all :
People eat unaltered food, that is rich in all nutrients and therefore fill fuller after a meal,  and snack less in between. Quality primes over quantity big time.

I'm an example of it myself : I grew up eating cheese and bread for dinner every day until the age of 24. Ate real icecream, no sweetner, loads of veggie. Here in India I cook with moderates amount of oil, loads of crisp veggies, and kick start my day with a breakfast including 4-5 seving of fruits, curd (full fat), sometimes add eggs to the mix. At 28, my cholesterol levels are all fine, so is the protein level in my blood. My blood sugar is normal, my waist line is 32 inches (doctors say the risk of heart disease for women increase if it's above 35). My BMI is perfect in the average for a healthy person. I walk 30-45 minutes a day, do not feel guilty about eating a bag of chips one night. I never had major weight or health issue in my life. But I heard of people who were doing fine on regular food and decided to go "healthy" with the crap mentionned above and have now I would recommend anybody to stop worrying about their health uselessly, and go for a check up instead of hoping blindly on that bad wagon. Junk food will always be junk, fat free or not, with or without sugar.

Eat it consciously when you do.


  1. Anonymous10:24 AM

    I read your post about olive oil, and I want to kindly share this information with you!

    Olive oil is a great oil for cooking. Strong flavored olive oils can be used for frying fish or other strong flavored ingredients. A mellow late harvest Mission variety oil could be used in baking a cake. Olive oil has a high smoke point, 410 degrees F, and doesn't degrade as quickly as many other oils do with repeated high heating. Use a variety of healthy vegetable oils when preparing food and incorporate a good extra virgin olive oil when you want its health benefits and wonderful Mediterranean flavor.

    There are some myths which have recently circulated about olive oil which we are constantly answering via email and our newsletter. Olive oil has been used for thousands of years and is one of the cornerstones of the healthy Mediterranean diet.

    Click here for a more scholarly discussion of storage and rancidity

    Olive Oil Myth: Olive oil loses its benefits when heated

    The Facts: Excessively heating olive oil will evaporate the alcohols and esters which make up its delicate taste and fragrance. Heating olive oil will not change its health aspects, only the flavor. Use a cheaper olive oil which doesn't have much flavor to begin with if you want to fry with it, add a more flavorful olive oil after cooking or at the table.

    Olive Oil Myth: Heating a cooking oil will make it saturated or a trans-fatty oil.

    The Facts: As far as making a saturated fat, according to Dr. A. Kiritsakis, a world renowned oil chemist in Athens, (Book - OLIVE OIL FROM THE TREE TO THE TABLE -Second edition 1998), all oils will oxidize and hydrogenate to a tiny degree if repeatedly heated to very high temperatures such as is done in commercial frying operations. Olive pomace oil and virgin olive oil are both highly monounsaturated oils and therefore resistant to oxidation and hydrogenation. Studies have shown oxidation and hydrogenation occurs to a lesser degree in olive oil than in other oils. But in any case, the amount of hydrogenation is miniscule and no home cook would ever experience this problem.

    The large refinery-like factories which take unsaturated vegetable oil and turn it into margarine or vegetable lard do so by bubbling hydrogen gas through 250 to 400 degree hot vegetable oil in the presence of a metal catalyst, usually nickel or platinum. The process can take several hours. You cannot make a saturated product like margarine at home by heating olive oil or any other vegetable oil in a pan. We don't know where this weird notion has come from. For more see our olive oil chemistry page

    Changing a cis-fat to a trans-fat does not occur on a home stove.

    Olive Oil Myth: Cooking in olive oil diminishes the nutritional value of the food.

    Olive Oil Fact: Heating food will break down its nutritional value. High heat such as frying is worse than moderate heat such as steaming, which is worse than eating vegetables raw. It is not the cooking oil per se, but the high heat of frying. I am not aware of any edible cooking oil which of itself diminishes the nutritional value of the food cooked in it. Most nutritionists recommend lightly steaming vegetables or eating them raw. A touch of a flavorsome olive oil added at the table will add taste and healthful anti-oxidants. Such is the "Mediterranean diet" which has been shown to help prevent coronary disease and have other health benefits.
    Some Other Olive Oil Questions:

    Frank Asks: Can I deep fry croquettes in olive oil without an undesirable taste ? Is it healthy ? If it the answer is yes, why is there so little information publicized and why don't the fast food restaurants use it ?

    OOS Responds: Gee, we're trying our best to get the word out about the healthy aspects of olive oil. Fast food restaurants will never use olive oil, its just too expensive compared to seed oils such as canola, safflower, etc. What may be affordable for a home cook wouldn't pencil for a big chain where costs are shaved by fractions of a cent for each order of fries.

    Olive pomace oil is often recommended for frying due to the fact that it is cheaper than virgin olive oil. Olive pomace oil and virgin olive oil are both high monounsaturated oils and therefore resistant to oxidation (rancidity). See cooking chart at bottom of page

    Walter asks: What is the boiling point of olive oil?

    OOS answers: The boiling point of olive oil (570 degrees Fahrenheit) is much higher than the smoking point (375 - 400 degrees F) and would be a very dangerous temperature to try to achieve on a home stove. It would certainly ruin the oil and would be close to the flash or fire point (around 600 degrees F) and the danger of a conflagration would be great. (When you are deep frying and you see the oil "boiling" you are actually seeing the water in the batter or food boiling, not the oil.) A more useful temperature would be the smoke point. see smoke point

    Shelby asks: Does cooking oil evaporate?

    Dear Shelby: Volatile oils will evaporate in a few days or weeks, "fixed" oils are more resistant to evaporation. Most vegetable cooking oils are classified as fixed oils. However, if you set out a container of most cooking oils, it would partially evaporate very slowly over months to years leaving a sticky varnish. You can see this varnish on the sides of pots and baking pans where the process has been speeded up by heat.
    Linda asks: A friend used cold pressed olive oil to roast and fry certain pieces of meat and it has damaged his non-stick frypan

    Dear Linda: Any oil if heated excessively will leave a varnish like coating on a pan. Remember that vegetable oils like linseed oil were formerly the primary ingredient in tough paints and finishes used on furniture, etc.

    Question: Which is better for your health, Extra Virgin, Virgin, or plain olive oil?

    Answer: The difference between the olive oils you listed is their acidity level, which affects mostly taste, not nutritional content. Lower acidity oils, such as extra virgin, tend to have more anti-oxidants, but that is not reflected in their classification. Anti-oxidants in olive oil may help prevent heart disease and cancer so sticking with extra virgin seems to make sense. Pomace olive oil is processed with hexane and other solvents just as most seed oils like canola, corn, safflower, soy, etc. This removes many of the minor constituents which may be the healthiest part of this natural product. 10/12/02

    Kevin asks: Why is there a conversion chart for butter/margarine to olive oil? Do you do that for all cooking recipes?

    OOS replies: The conversion chart is more for cake and pastry recipes where quantities are critical.

    You can't convert all recipes from solid shortening (butter/margarine) to liquid shortening (olive oil/vegetable oil). For instance, a cake frosting must stay solid at room temperature so a quick frosting made with butter and powdered sugar would work, olive oil and powdered sugar wouldn't.

    Then there is the taste. A mild tasting late harvest olive oil would probably work OK in most cake and pastry recipes because cooking will get rid of the aromatic olive oil flavors. Uncooked confections such as the cake frosting would taste more than a bit unusual if made with olive oil.

    For most main course dishes where margarine or butter is being used for frying or sautéing, olive oil could be readily substituted. In olive oil producing countries the flavors of olive oil and butter/margarine are used to enhance each other in some recipes.

    Frank asks: Does olive oil have Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)?:

    Dear Frank: Many foods naturally contain small quantities of PAHs. It is not good to eat foods high in PAHs as some studies connect them with cancer. Olive oil, like all other vegetable cooking oils, has been found to contain minute amounts of up to 17 PAHs such as benzanthracene and chrysene. Unripe olives tended to have more than ripe olives. Burning any cooking oil can increase the amounts of PAHs. This is not considered a major risk source in the diet and the oil would have to be heated repeatedly and for extended periods to the smoking point. It is unlikely that in home use olive oil or other cooking oils would be a significant source of PAHs.

    Claire asks: What's the best way to store olive oil?

    Dear Claire: See Olive Oil Storage

    Sue inquires: I am in Australia, and have been given a 1 lit bottle of olive oil, but unfortunately it is very rancid and I cannot use it for cooking. I there any way I can filter this oil so it becomes usable?

    OOS responds: Olive oil must be chemically refined to correct rancidity. It is not a matter of filtering. Throw it away and buy yourself a nice fresh bottle of Australian grown olive oil. It is only good for a year or so; be generous with it in your cooking, use it up and buy some more.

    A reader asks: Is it possible to make olive oil hard for spreading, like margarine?

    Margaret Chidgey, editor of the journal of the Australian Olive Association recently answered this question: "We use 500g of butter to 1.5 cups of evoo. Make sure it is fairly light-flavoured oil, otherwise the oil will overwhelm the butter taste.

    Beat the butter in a food processor or Mixmaster until softened, then gradually add the olive oil. When it is all completely blended, it will be quite pourable. I pour it into 500 ml containers and put lids on, then store them in the fridge. When cold it is quite hard.

    Variations: You can add some milk to make it go a bit further - up to 1/4 cup for this quantity. We make winter and summer blends too. The recipe above is for winter. In summer I use only 1 cup of olive oil, because the spread becomes too soft when it is left out in warm weather."

    Grimmy asks: I make large batches of pesto and was wondering if I could freeze it and have it return to its original consistency.

    OOS responds: Freezing pesto is the best way to preserve it. Freezing olive oil will not harm it; it will actually prolong it's nutritional benefits and its flavor.

    Here is a statement on cooking with olive oil from the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC):

    Frying temperatures

    When heated, olive oil is the most stable fat, which means it stands up well to high frying temperatures. Its high smoking point (210º C) is well above the ideal temperature for frying food (180º C). The digestibility of olive oil is not affected when it is heated, even when it is re-used several times for frying.
    Medium (130–145º C) High water content: vegetables, potatoes, fruit…
    Hot (155– 170º C) Coated in batter,flour or breadcrumbs, forming a crust
    Very hot (175–190º C) Small, quickly fried: small fish, croquettes

    An excellent resource with voluminous bibliography is a monograph entitled "Frying Food in Olive oil" by Gregorio Varela, Professor of Nutrition, Madrid University. It is available from the International Olive Council (IOC)

    Last updated: 06/19/07

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